15 March 2020

Aiming for a Lagom lifestyle

There’s a whole pile of books on the Vivez Vegan TBR (to be read) pile. Posting about your TBR list is quite popular amongst some of the editing folk I follow, but I could never hope to emulate the speed with which they plough through the tomes. Some even watch TV, too. One of the goals in my create space project is to create time for things that I enjoy, and one of these is reading. These days I tend more towards non-fiction. Recently, it’s been heavy stuff like The China Study, How Not To Diet and Becoming Vegan, the dietitian’s textbook. However, Mr VV recently bought three lovely little books, all centred around the Scandinavian lifestyle theme: Hygge, Lagom and Lykke. Although they’re very stylishly produced, the actual contents are quite serious and backed-up by scientific research and lots of stats and data.

This week I started to dip into Lagom, all about the Swedish art of balanced living. The basic concept is living simply; neither too much, nor too little, just enough. This theory is applied to all aspects of life, from the car you drive, to the food you eat, to how you spend your leisure time. The benefits of Lagom are listed as being (more) physical space, mental space, improved finances and a sense of belonging. As I read, I decided to examine various aspects of our lifestyle to see how they matched up with the principles of Lagom.

The Scandinavian countries are well-known for their excellent work–life balance. Like their German neighbours, when they are at work, they work, and when work ends, it ends and they go off home or to enjoy leisure. Something we have always noticed when travelling in these countries is that weekends are for getting outside, getting exercise and that, generally, shopping is not a recreational activity, as it is in the UK. A few weeks ago, I realised that I was becoming stressed with the accumulation of events (and that was before any talk of the corona virus!), so I set about trying to create space in our busy schedule. It has taken a few weeks to unwind, but I’m certainly feeling the benefit of trying to cram less into the day, and getting outside more.

The important principles of Lagom in relation to food include cooking from scratch, growing your own food, the slow food (local, sustainable) movement and, of course, fika. The latter is an all-encompassing term for coffee and cakes, with friends, to relax and take a break, often accompanied by cinnamon buns (very easy to make a vegan version). Since we‘ve been back in the UK, we have been enjoying some great coffee shop treats, from chains like Costa to local independents, a couple of which are full-on vegan. Another Swedish habit that we’ve done for a long time is known as Fredagsmys: comfort eating on a Friday evening. I call it Junk Food Friday, although with our healthy vegan diet airfryer wedges and meatless ‘fish’ fillets are the nearest we get to junk. However, when I mentioned the Lagom-style meal Pyttipanna to Mr VV he didn’t seem too keen – the idea is that you take all the leftovers out of the fridge, chop them up small and fry them, topped with a fried egg (or scoop of nut butter in the vegan version) and some beetroot.

Another aspect of Lagom is the ‘no waste’ and sustainability philosophy, and equality. This encompasses many of our own habits, such as ardent recycling, supporting charity shops and charities generally and rational shopping. Clothes wearing and purchasing place an emphasis on comfort, and capsule wardrobes like that proposed by Project 333 are popular. Lagom places great importance on creativity – no wonder there are so many successful Swedish designers. In fact, one of IKEA’s founding principles extolled by Ingvar Kamprad was that less well-off people should be able to afford well-designed furniture. Creativity in Swedish life extends to leisure activities, so things like gardening and crochet (more of that in a future post) all contribute to the Lagom lifestyle.

Unpretentious exercise is another key aspect. Walking, getting outdoors, being in nature are all Lagom. There’s a virtually untranslatable Swedish word motion, which means a cross between gentleness, movement and exercise. It is a Lagom type of exercise, and a term that could be applied to our now almost daily circuits of the village sans dogs. We started doing it simply to ‘make up’ our daily steps quota to 10,000, but now it has become a regular “blast around the block”.

The general Lagom outlook is one of little drama. Difficult in the current climate of panic and fear, but certainly a state to aim for. Lagom aims to achieve peace and equilibrium, with no need to overdramatise events and tackling problems utilising a solutions-based approach. The Swedes are very keen on a bit of mindfulness to help achieve this, with meditation and yoga on the menu, too. In fact, one of my favourite YouTube yoga channels, Eckhart Yoga, is Swedish. The notion of Lagom is built on trust. Trust breeds happiness, so it is no wonder that Scandinavians are near to the top of the worldwide happiness indexes. My overall conclusion was that we’re pretty Lagom in virtually every aspect of our lives. From our unpretentious hygge Hut and our downmarket Dacia car, to our countryside walks, simple vegan food and camping holidays. Snow aside, we’d probably enjoy life in Sweden. As Mr VV said of the Lagom book, “It’s everything I believe but I found out I was doing it anyway.”

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